Category: thoughts by Marilyn Ehle

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Pay attention to what you hear… Mark 4:24

It was a beautiful quiet moment. I sat on a shaded park bench without interruption of cell phones, appointments or other demands for my attention. An occasional bird song provided a hymn of praise while just beyond me the sun shone through pine branches. I could imagine God as my touchable companion.

And then came squawks and screams! Suddenly a brood of magpies flew from branch to branch, their chorus more cacophonous than melodic as they quarrelled over some tasty morsel. My idyll was broken, my mood shattered, my emotions driven from contemplation to disappointment.

Pausing momentarily in self-pity, I began to hear not magpies but a squawking, screaming world. People lost in confusion, fighting over false morsels the world offers, flying from place to place, person to person seeking satisfaction. While I need time for uninterrupted contemplation, my other call is to live in the world as Jesus did. He invited his friends to “get away and rest awhile,” but he was also willing to be interrupted by a woman drained by life’s miseries, by children needing attention, by a curious, outcast man sitting on a tree branch trying to see Jesus.

The poet John O’Donohue wrote, “One of the deepest longings of the human soul is to be seen,” and the squawking magpies remind me to not only see the souls’ longings, but also hear them. I am called to be an imitator of God as I listen: “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

By Marilyn Ehle
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How precious are your thoughts concerning me.” Psalm 139:17

It had been anything but a ‘quiet’ time. Although I had closed the door and opened my Bible, my attention skittered between meetings just attended, people needs for which I felt responsible and future events crowding the calendar.  Glance at the clock too soon revealed that it was time to leave my private chamber and tend to the day’s responsibilities. ‘So much for spiritual preparation.’ was my somewhat whiny comment to God.as if He had been physically standing before me: “That’s okay, my daughter. I just wanted to sit here with you. I’ve enjoyed our time together.”

We delude ourselves into thinking that our quiet times are primarily for our own benefit. We are intellectually aware that God is always with us, that His eye is not only on the sparrow but on each of us. We claim a personal relationship with Him yet are slow to understand much of what that means.

How different would be our attitudes if we began to learn that we come into His presence to give Him joy.

God, I am so grateful for your personal love for me. To think that you simply desire me to be in your presence is overwhelming. I love you.

by Marilyn Ehle
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If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.  John 14:9

Dan’s earthly father had been cold, distant, unloving and cruelly strict. Although through the years, Dan heard that his Heavenly Father was loving and had even mentally accepted that truth, when terminal illness struck and death inevitably loomed, he seemed afraid to “let go.”

The will to live is strong and physical death exists as the last symptom of Eden’s curse, but why do some face it with peace, even joy and anticipation? Because Dan had no earthly equivalent of a loving father, did God the Father seem “too big” for a personal relationship, too distant for Dan’s—and our—scarred minds to see and understand?

But Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” This Jesus whispered “Mary” to a guilt-stricken, broken-hearted woman. This Jesus invaded culture to touch a leper. This Jesus gathered ignored children to his side. This Jesus fell bloodied from whips and humiliated from curses. This Jesus—this God—is just the right size for our trust and love.

By Marilyn Ehle
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The Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places… you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.  Isaiah 55:11

The spindly, pale green plant drooped more each day as it struggled to survive in the shadow of stronger, taller greenery in the same large pot. Finally, assuming that I couldn’t inflict more damage than what was apparent, I gently tugged it out of its spot, brushed off the dry roots, re-potted it in an old chipped coffee mug and placed it on a windowsill to catch morning light.

Did the drooping plant seem straighter in just a few days? Were pale leaves slowly turning a rich, deep green? Was it just my imagination that this small cutting reached toward the sun when I turned the pot?

Just like the weak plant, we too struggle when we live in the shadows. Sometimes we wither when in the presence of strong, multi-talented, energetic Christians, considering ourselves so little and so less in comparison. Sometimes unwise decisions, unconfessed sin, poor choices, or relationships that damage our view of God and of ourselves block out the sun—the Son. We have forgotten that He is the Light that gives life. He is the Living Water that soaks into drought-stricken souls.

Just as I regularly turn that old coffee mug with its small sprout toward the sun, so we must regularly and intentionally turn to the Son. Bask in his love, drink of his love, accept his love. Feed regularly on the nutrients from his Word, the Bible. Remember that he says,

I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love!” Jeremiah 31:3 (The Message)

By Marilyn Ehle
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Turning around, Jesus saw them (two of John’s disciples) following and asked,

What do you Want?” John 1:37

They were obviously religious men, quite probably those who knew the old prophecies and longed for the coming of the Messiah. They were followers of this strange prophet named John the Baptizer, the one called of God to prepare people for the coming of the Christ.

And then one day John pointed out Jesus passing by and said, “Look, the Lamb of God! Our English translation does not do justice to their importance. I do not believe John simply glanced over on the road and, noticing Jesus, casually commented, “Incidentally, that one I’ve been talking about? You might be interested that he’s just over there.”  We know that on the prior day, John had first pointed out Jesus with the same words (John 1:29-34), even giving personal witness to how God affirmed that Jesus was “God’s Chosen One.”

The two men who evidently were honestly seeking after God still needed to hear the question: “What do you want?”  Jesus took the initiative to help them look more deeply into their own hearts, to examine their motives, and perhaps even get a glimpse of what following Jesus might mean.

Their response to Jesus may seem odd to us, but it is very possible these two knew that the deep longings of their hearts could not be addressed with a mere roadside conversation. They needed a place of privacy and uninterrupted time to reveal their deep needs and to personally hear Jesus’ responses.

What do you want?

God poses that same question to each of us and we, too, need to retreat into a time and place secluded enough to hear His answers.

Lord, so often I do not know what I want; I only know there is a longing that gnaws at my heart. Thank you for your Spirit who will not leave me alone but continually asks,  “What do you really want?” And then you welcome me into your presence.

by Marilyn Ehle
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The WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet fad has receded from top shelf popularity. The book, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon has similarly slipped from public view. Our memories are short, our intentions even shorter, but the motivation behind both bracelet and book is honorable and worth our consideration.

In recent months I’ve become painfully aware of acquaintances and close friends facing near-unspeakable tragedy. Their reactions have been as varied as their situations. Anger. Denial. Futility. Calm–even joyful–acceptance. While personality and past experience profoundly influence their reactions, the months-long walk of one friend captured my attention.

Throughout her long battle with cancer, I saw her intelligent mind engaged as she conferred with doctors, accepting many of their solutions, refusing others. She read medical journals to learn of diet and lifestyle influences on her disease. She continued teaching piano to children and adults even as she underwent the scheduled chemotherapy treatments. That’s the “what” of my friend’s battle.

But the “how” How  could she continue meeting each Sunday morning with a group of friends, sharing both “it’s been a really hard week” and “isn’t God good?” comments. (Many more of the latter than the former!) Not once throughout the long months did we hear a “why” question.

How did she “do” it? As I observed Sue’s life, several answers to that question became obvious.

(1)    She was not surprised by tragedy. She firmly believed that cancer (or any other misfortune) is simply part of living in a fallen—post-Eden—world. This definitely didn’t mean she saw calamity around every corner; she simply accepted that bad-things-happen-to-good/all-people.

(2)    She purposefully lived and shared in community. She kept her family informed of her situation but didn’t call every day with medical updates! (To the chagrin—but final acceptance—of some.) She drove through rain, snow, sleet and sunshine to church activities. We worried about her but also applauded her determination. She continued encouraging other cancer patients through a care network.

(3)    She chose—crucial word—to believe that is God good, that he loved her, that he had a plan for her life. She cultivated this practice for years, before rising from her bed each morning, thanking God for the new day, for the joy she expected him to give her.

(4)    She immersed herself in God’s Word—and words—to her. Reading the Bible wasn’t a mere morning ritual, but a time of contemplating words, phrases, sentences, intentionally digging deep beneath the markings on the page. Not one Sunday passed without Sue’s sharing of some “new” insight, produced and applied by God’s Holy Spirit.

(5)    She was intimately acquainted with Jesus. He was not merely God’s provision of salvation. He was definitely not “just” an example or teacher, nor an ultimate judge. When Sue faced thoughtless words from well-meaning friends(?), she searched the Bible to find how Jesus reacted in similar situations. When the burdens of pain seemed overwhelming, she re-read the Gethsemane story and once more wept the words, “Not my will...” When sleep proved elusive, she—like Jesus—”withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” If he did it, then she, as his disciple and friend, would do likewise.

(6)    She practiced gratitude. Each morning she thanked God for the new day. She thanked him for sufficient resources to pay for treatment. She thanked him for sunshine, rain, storm, flowers. She thanked him for the FedEx delivery man…whom she invited him in and prayed for! Because she was well acquainted with God’s loving nature and purposes, she couldn’t imagine a life without gratitude.

(7)    She willingly placed her family, friends and future into God’s hands. This wasn’t a mere spiritual exercise, but practical action accompanied by holding her hands with open palms and imagining people and plans offered to the God she trusted.

Sue spent little time thinking about the “what” of her situation, but she was immersed in the “how” of living as a Christ follower. She had spent a lifetime “practicing the presence” of Christ so that it became the almost automatic “how” of walking through floods and fires, through the realities that all of us will face at one time or another. She needed neither bracelet or book.

By Marilyn Ehle
Used by Permission


If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, you can start today. Simply say this prayer and your journey with Christ will begin:

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I want to trust you from now on. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me be the person You want me to be. Thank you for enabling me to trust you in these uncertain times. Amen.

If this prayer expresses what you desire, take this step to respond to God’s invitation. He will forgive your sins, be with you always, guide you each day and give you eternal life. If you do pray this prayer of faith, God will be faithful to his promise and come into your life.

Just as the introduction is the beginning in any relationship, getting to know God is just the beginning. To grow in your relationship with God, talk to him daily through prayer, start reading the Bible beginning with the gospel of John and seek out others who have a personal faith in God. A relationship with God provides an unchanging foundation of hope in a world of unprecedented change. God will give you the strength to face the challenges of each day and to anticipate the future he has a planned for you.


If you prayed this prayer we would love to hear from you . If you would like to know God deeper we can connect you with an email mentor and/or send you some great links.


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His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness… For this very reason, make every effort to add to.” 2 Peter 1:3 and 5

The business owner who wishes to see positive numbers in the profit column regularly traces the company’s financial progress. Any supervisor who genuinely cares for the welfare of her employees – as well as for the success of her company – consistently tracks how well the employees are doing.

Christians, too, have a way to measure their progress, or growth. God wants to see his children grow to be more like Jesus, and who among us does not want to have the characteristics of Jesus increasingly evident in our lives?

Peter writes that we should make every effort to “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

In their effort to increase employees’ progress, employers and supervisors can provide a positive and encouraging work atmosphere, training sessions, seminar, etc. But God provides much more. He “has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” The Apostle Paul writes, “God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants.” (Philippians 2:13)

How’s your progress?

Father, thank you for providing everything we need to grow spiritually. Forgive us for too often being satisfied with the status quo, or measuring ourselves by others.

by Marilyn Ehle
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Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path..”
Psalm 27:11

In a small utility room in our home hangs a loosely slatted divider to partition the space. Cords at the side are used to roll up the divider when we want to get at the broom, mop or other pieces of cleaning equipment. It is a functional arrangement that usually works quite well.

But those cords cause frustration. If not carefully held separate while being pulled, they quickly tangle into infuriating snarls that take long minutes to unscramble. How could one simple operation cause so much aggravation? The cords seem to take on a life of their own, determined to try my patience. Just when I think I have found the one end that, when pulled through a knot, will solve the problem, the end seems to disappear into a puzzling mesh and I have several more twisted knots to contend with.

Life is all too similar to these tangled cords. Unexpected circumstances—seemingly simple—cause frustration that wears on our patience. Just when we think the solution is near, another tangle appears. Sometimes we are at fault. We have not taken sufficient time to organize the calendar and appointments heap upon one another. Or we allowed ourselves—or family members—to tolerate small messes that soon become mountainous piles of disorder. Other times the unexpected simply rushes in through no fault of our own and we are overwhelmed.

It takes time and patience to sort through the calendar, tackle small jobs before they become huge obstacles or simply learn to expect the unexpected. Whatever the cause, we have a Heavenly Father who never becomes frustrated with our poor attempts and stands ready to show us straight ways.

by Marilyn Ehle
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Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off EVERYTHING that hinders…”  Hebrews 12:1

It’s a new year and the slate is clean. Although some of our resolutions may already be broken, we truly do want to begin again. We thrill to the grace of God which not only forgives but gives power to live by the Spirit of God.  But can it actually happen?

And then comes that whisper of the Spirit: “This is the way; walk in it.” We hear the whisper, we even see the way laid out before us, but past experience with our own weakness and the toughness of life in general makes us hesitate. “I’ll follow, but” “I’ll obey, however…” “I’ll speak, except…”

The Old Testament—given as an example “to keep us from setting our hearts on evil”—is filled with vivid illustrations of those whose lives were filled with buts, excepts and howevers.

Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high place. (1Kings 3:3)

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…The high places, however, were not removed… (2 Kings 15:34, 35)

He did what right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.
(2 Chronicles 25:2)

That is too high a standard,” we exclaim. “No one can attain—and maintain—that kind of life.” And that is exactly what God is waiting to hear. The only One with no buts, excepts or howevers in His life was Jesus and He, living within us, promises to give us the power to present ourselves as living sacrifices, ready and willing to experience all that He is ready to give.

by Marilyn Ehle
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How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast is the sum of them.”  Psalm 139:17

Many of us bask in the knowledge of God’s presence with us. We find comfort in words like, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” We imagine Jesus’ still-tentative disciples finding hope in the words, “Surely I am with you always.”  Our hearts ponder and cling to his always-abiding presence.

But the Hebrew psalmist gives us a fresh glimpse into God’s heart. Not only can we think about God, but he thinks about us! David seems almost overwhelmed by the concept of God’s unwavering attention being focused on his children. He describes God’s thoughts as not merely cerebral; they are precious, a Hebrew word with the nuance of value or great and heavy worth.

And then, as though he can hardly imagine this facet of God’s nature, David says God’s thoughts about us are not only rare and beautiful, but vast in number. It is as though God’s mind, contemplating us, overflows with thought after thought after thought of his precious children.

To meditate on this picture of God draws me to my knees in wonder and adoration. I do not deserve such loving attention. It is an irresistible gift of a gracious God.

Father, I am drawn to you in a new way as I ponder your thoughts about me. How you must long for my companionship just as you wanted to walk with your first children in the garden. Thank you, oh thank you, dear Father.

By Marilyn Ehle
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“(What I have done in the past) is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! I’m going to do a brand new thing.”
Isaiah 43:18-19
(Life Application Bible)

As we contemplate the freshness of a new year, we’re tempted to quickly rejoice over God’s words to Israel. Who would not want to be part of God’s “brand new thing”? We get excited as we pray for and anticipate a new work of God in our lives and in the world.

Anyone who has ever worn beautiful new shoes, however, may wish to think carefully about the possible consequences of new things. The shoes looked so good when we tried them on, and we even made sure they were the right size, but walking all day in that new purchase frequently gives us second thoughts. And all of us who start a new diet know that discouragement frequently settles in around the third day!

It is right and good to ask for God’s new things, but are we ready for the sacrifices that may accompany the blessing? Does commitment accompany the request? The new thing that God began in the life of the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road would take him into hostile cities, over stormy seas and through many prison cells. He learned to say “press on” long after the newness had worn off.

Father, my heart is stirred when I think of all the new things you want to do in and through me, but help me understand that following you is a lifetime decision. Thank you for staying with me even when the days are long and the newness has worn off. In Jesus name, Amen.

by Marilyn Ehle
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I believe! Help me with my doubts.”

Mark 9:24 (The Message)

A good mystery writer leaves the reader panting for more. Works of Dostoevsky, Christie, Sayers, Eco and others fly off library and bookstores shelves faster than they can be replaced. These writers have learned how to introduce and develop characters, plots, circumstances that draw us into worlds far different from our own. We enjoy imagining how we would act or react in similar situations.

The story of Christmas is one of three mysteries of the Christian faith that troubles many. The person and work of the Holy Spirit confounds our understanding. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is another. And it all seems to begin with the “beyond reason” circumstances that started nine months before the events of a starry night in Bethlehem.

Author Madeleine L’Engle writes that “Had Mary been filled with reason there’d have been no room for the child.”* God—being a God who created us as body, soul, mind and spirit—takes the risky step of asking us to trust Him in the midst of mystery. We cannot call upon facts of history to explain the conception of Jesus. Imagination often expressed in poetry may take us to the edge of understanding but leaves us still wondering.

The mystery of Christmas requires something we rational humans find most difficult: faith. Not some brain-numbing step into an abyss, but rather that which is described in the New Testament: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). This faith is based not on manufactured fact, but rather on active belief in the God who created, loves, sustains and desires intimate relationship with His children.

This God knows that as confusing as mysteries can be, there is a part deep within us that only be touched by the mystery of God Himself. And so, without knowing each detail of all God’s stories, I read on…panting for more.

Thank you, Father, for being greater than my mind yet for the way you stir my imagination as I choose to trust you.

*A Cry Like a Bell

by Marilyn Ehle
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In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land…” Ruth 1:1

On every side we are faced with world hunger. Many people reading these words think about hunger only in personal terms. For example, “What will we prepare for dinner?” or “This diet is making me hungry” or “Next week I’ll contribute canned goods to the local food pantry.” But we cringe when we see pictures of babies with bloated stomachs, babies too weak to nurse from their mother’s breast and we open our wallets to help meet the staggering needs. When tragedy strikes, the universal need for food and support is recognized.

But we are also faced with other kinds of hunger – hunger that cannot be satisfied with another shipment of grain or rice. The words in the beginning of the narrative about Naomi and Ruth are stark in their simplicity: In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. There was no alternative except to leave all that was familiar, comfortable, and predictable and search for a place where food could be found.

Many of us experience famine even though we may never have to leave our homeland to search for food. The word is not limited to lack of food; its broad meaning includes deprivation, shortage and want. We may be deprived of the kind of love we were led to believe marriage would supply. We may be short of affirmation from our peers or superiors. We may fall short of believing in ourselves, lacking in hope, comfort or joy. We may think that God Himself is absent.

If you know the story, you know that when these women heard that the famine was over in Naomi’s homeland, they decided to travel back to a place of familiarity. Although Naomi and Ruth eventually found food, they were otherwise left without any visible means of physical or emotional support when their husbands died. This was not short-term deprivation; the biblical text indicates that they lived well over ten years in the midst of loss.

Ultimately God worked wonders that would trickle down to affect the lives of both Jews and Christians. (King David and our Savior Jesus Christ find Ruth in their lineage.)

But it did not happen quickly or without pain. They experienced profound loss in their journey. The God who walked with them through the famine brought them finally to the feast of fullness. He promises to do the same for us but the timing might not be what we expect. Just like in the lives of Naomi and Ruth, God’s answers may come in surprising ways.

Lord, I am going through a famine in (name area of your life). Would You help me to lean into You and trust that You will bring me into a feast of fullness? Thank You for your never ending love. Amen.

Questions: What strikes you the most in the story of Naomi and Ruth? How does it apply to your life?

by Marilyn Ehle
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Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.Matthew 26:13

In just a few short hours Jesus will agonize in the Garden and go to the Cross. But for now He is in Bethany with His friends where at dinner a woman approaches with an extravagantly expensive gift of perfume which she pours on His feet. The disciples are displeased at this seeming waste of money but Jesus quietly dismisses their reaction, graciously accepting her humble, sacrificial act as evidence of deep faith and love.

We immediately read that Judas’ “as keeper of the common purse” has had enough of Jesus’ apparent disregard for what Judas perceives to be the real needs of the people. He goes to the chief priests, offering to betray the Savior for thirty silver coins.

Two people – Both remembered. One, for faith without seeing, the other for seeing without faith. What will I be remembered for?

Thank you, Father, for loving me and for Your grace which  accepts my too-small sacrifices,  transforming them into offerings which glorify You. May I each day humbly offer myself to You so that the world will see Christ in me and long to know Him.

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I have stilled and quieted my soul…Psalm 131:2

Whether it be the insistent cry of the corporate ladder, the more vocal cry of small children, or the never-ending cry of our loneliness, cacophony surrounds us. However, even the most “type A” personally eventually discovers that the soul, that deep place within, longs – indeed requires – stillness.

I am amazed that the writer of Psalm 131 does not ask for a seminar, retreat or religious “professional” to teach him how to be quiet. He simply says, “I have stilled and quieted my soul…” Did he hide in a cave in the midst of actual battle for moments of spiritual re-arming? Perhaps it was during the daily schedule of unrelenting decision-making as king that he escaped into a quiet side room of the palace?

In our modern world with its press of sound via television, radio, iPods, internet and cell phones, it becomes imperative for the Christian to learn how to “still and quiet” the soul. But this is not a habit that comes naturally; we are attuned to the clock and calendar, somehow wanting instant quietness without effort. Anyone who has suffered through learning to play a musical instrument knows the tendency to skip over those daily and often frustrating practice sessions. In similar fashion, any spiritual practice must also be actually practiced.

The psalmist says that the result of a stilled and quieted soul is the attitude of a small child who leans close to his mother, fully confident in her love, care and protection. There is ultimate and sure blessing ahead for the one who is learning to be still and quieted.

Lord, I am impatient for so many things. I want results without effort, without practice. Not only does my head know that I need quiet, but the core of my being longs for it. Please help me understand and practice the disciplines that will lead to a stilled soul.

By Marilyn Ehle
Used by Permission

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